Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Random Thought - My Thoughts on the 2014 Hugo Award Results

This past Saturday, the winners of the 2014 Hugo awards were announced at this year's Worldcon. I have listed all the nominees and winners in my post 2014 Hugo Award Nominees, although I suspect that most people who would read this far know these results already. I have also written (or will write in the near future) some posts about how I cast my ballot as a supporting member of the convention. These can be found here:

2014 Hugo Voting - Best Novel
2014 Hugo Voting - Best Novella
2014 Hugo Voting - Best Novelette
2014 Hugo Voting - Best Short Story
2014 Hugo Voting - Best Fancast

I will note that the point of these posts was not to demonstrate how good a prognosticator I am (and given the divergence between my ballot and the actual results, to do so would be a fool's errand), or to try to influence anyone else's votes. The point is to discuss each of the nominated works, and to explain why I voted the way I did.

Not all of my first place choices won. In fact, very few of my first place choices won. On the other hand, most of the winners were highly ranked on my ballot. On the whole, I think a very deserving crop of works and individuals won the awards this year.  I am very happy that Kameron Hurley won both for Best Fan Writer and in the Best Related Work category for her brilliant blog post We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative. Her work has always been strong, and in the past year it has been brilliant. I am also especially happy that Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice won, as it was by far the best book of a terribly uneven set of nominees. And "terribly uneven" seems to be the best description one can give for this Hugo award cycle. There were some very good books, stories, magazines, podcasts, and individuals nominated this year. There were also some very mediocre works nominated, and some really terrible ones. Fortunately, the good works won, and the poor works came in last place or close to last place (and in one case, behind last place).

I suppose this brings me to the so-called "sad puppy" ballot promoted by childish gun-nut Larry Correia that consisted of a collection of works by people he is politically aligned with, and who he campaigned to get on the ballot without regard for the quality of the works nominated. This resulted in the nomination of his own book Warbound, along with Brad Torgersen's stories The Chaplain's Legacy and The Exchange Officers, Dan Wells' novella The Butcher of Khardov, Theodore Beale's novelette Opera Vita Aeterna, Elitist Book Reviews for Best Fanzine, and Toni Weisskopf for Best Editor: Long Form. The results of the balloting proved that getting nominated is one thing, and doing well in the voting is a very different thing. The nominees from the "sad puppy" ballot ended up finishing no higher than fourth, many of them came in last, and one - Opera Vita Aeterna - finished behind "No Award", effectively coming in lower than last.

Correia, like many "conservative" authors, believes that the Hugo Award voters have a bias against conservative writers. The problem with this theory is that the nominated works from the "sad puppy" ballot shared two characteristics in common: (1) they were all written by conservative authors, and (2) they were mediocre to bad pieces of fiction. The problem that these works had once they got onto the ballot is that people could read them and compare them to the other nominated works, and they all came up well short of the standard set by their competition. If the goal was to show how biased the Hugo voters are, then nominating a collection of mediocre to miserable pieces of fiction, a terrible fanzine, and a decent but unspectacular editor as your champions isn't going to get you to your preferred destination. All the "sad puppy" ballot truly has done is expose the wider public to what Correia thinks is the "best" of eligible conservative writing, and show that his judgment as far as quality goes is highly suspect. Seriously, if this is the best conservative writing has to offer in a year then conservative authors aren't being snubbed by the Hugo voters. They are being justifiably ignored.

The other big story of this Hugo Award cycle was the nomination of the Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson authored Wheel of Time as a complete series for Best Novel. Despite concerns that Wheel of Time fans would swamp the Hugo balloting for Best Novel, this obviously didn't happen. It seems that there just aren't enough dedicated single-issue voters to sway the competition. For my part, I didn't think that the Wheel of Time should have been on the ballot to begin with. Not because it was a series nominated as a whole, but rather because none of the individual volumes of the series were particularly noteworthy. In my view, if you've come up empty of nominations for thirteen books, then your series as a whole simply doesn't belong on the ballot either. I can respect the commercial achievement and the influence the series has had on the genre, but it just isn't good enough for a nomination in my opinion.

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